Safety of aid workers crucial, UN officials say after murders in Pakistan


11 March - United Nations officials today condemned the murder of six aid workers in north-west Pakistan, the latest in a series of attacks against the humanitarian community in the South Asian nation.

World Vision International has reportedly suspended its operations in Pakistan following yesterday's deadly attack on its office in Mansehra district. The non-governmental organization (NGO) was working in the area to assist survivors of the deadly earthquake that struck the country in October 2005, leaving some 3 million people homeless.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes spoke out against the “appalling” attack, saying it is part of a “continuing pattern of assaults” on aid workers in Pakistan.

“The Secretary-General and I both condemn that unreservedly and call for humanitarian workers in Pakistan, as elsewhere, who are simply there to help the people of Pakistan to be protected and not attacked in this way,” he told reporters in New York.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon insisted that “all the armed actors in the country must ensure the safety of aid workers, not least for the sake of the people they are trying to help.”

Attacks on aid workers in Pakistan are on the rise, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In Mansehra district in 2008, five staff members of the organization Plan International were murdered by armed attackers.

In addition, 12 UN staff members were killed and 12 others injured in four separate violent incidents since January 2009, including a suicide attack on the main office in Islamabad of the World Food Programme (WFP) last October that killed five.

Despite the enormous risks, the UN and its partners last year helped the Pakistani Government assist over 2 million people displaced by fighting in the north-west, as well as host communities and people affected by the fighting who never left their places of origin. They provided some 4.3 million people with food aid, an operation that continues even today.